Being sworn in as Thompson’s seventh MLA was an unexpectedly emotional experience for Eric Redhead.
The June 24 ceremony began with the former Shamattawa First Nation chief entering Room 200 at the Manitoba legislature to the accompaniment of drumming by the Whitehorse Singers and Pastor Marty McLean delivering a blessing before Redhead was sworn in using his own bible that he brought for the occasion.
“I’m going to be frank, it was very emotional,” Redhead told the Thompson Citizen in a June 24 phone call. “It took a lot of strength to hold back tears.”
Over 100 people were in attendance at the ceremony, including Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew and the other members of the NDP caucus, as well as Redhead’s family and friends from across the country and Northern Manitoba First Nations leaders including Shamattawa Chief Jordna Hill and Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation Chief Marcel Moody.
The new Thompson MLA said he didn’t expect to react as strongly to the ceremony as he did before it got started.
“I went in thinking, ‘We have this down,’” he said, but upon reflecting on how far he’s come, the gravity of the moment sank in.
“Growing up in Shamattawa, you don’t think that things like this are possible, you really don’t,” Redhead said. “The trials and tribulations that life had thrown at me at such a young age and to be able to be where I am today, thanks to the constituents of Thompson. I’m honoured that the citizens of the riding have put their trust in me to be their voice at the legislature.”
His reflections on his past are especially poignant at this time because a seven-year-old child in Shamattawa recently took their own life, the MLA said.
“That’s so young,” said Redhead. “Times are tough when you’re growing up in that situation but things can change. Anything can happen.”
Though he has now transitioned from MLA-elect to Thompson MLA, the legislature is on its summer break and it will be awhile before Redhead takes his seat or rises to speak in the chamber. But he plans to keep busy over the summer, establishing his constituency office in Thompson and hearing more from the riding’s residents, not as a candidate this time, but as their voice in government.
“It was, ‘Put your trust in me,’ and now it’s going to be, ‘How can I help?’ That's going to be the difference.”
Redhead already knows what one of his top priorities will be.
“I want to start immediately working on getting foot care back in Thompson,” he said. “That is an unbelievable blow to the citizens and people really need that service. We’re not sitting but that doesn’t mean I can’t pressure and continue to push for these things.”
Taking a cue from his predecessor as NDP MLA, the late Danielle Adams, Redhead said he doesn’t plan to be a guy just sitting in an office.
“I am looking forward to putting in the work and making sure that I do the riding right and fight for what it deserves,” he said. “I plan on fighting my hardest for them, keeping Danielle’s legacy alive. Continuing the work that she’s done is very, very important to me. Continuing to connect with the constituents is going to be the priority for me.”
The party leader said in a press release that he is confident that Redhead will be an effective representative for Thompson.
“Eric Redhead is a caring father and a strong community leader who will fight for northern families,” said Kinew. “Eric worked hard to get where he is today and I know he will continue to work hard to make life better for the families in his constituency. He will be an incredible MLA and he makes our team stronger. With Eric on our team, we continue the NDP’s legacy of representing all of Northern Manitoba.”